Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reading Formative Assessments

We have officially wrapped up our first unit in Reader's Workshop that focused on characters! Our kids really grew so much, especially in their written responses!

One of the things that Kate and I have been reflecting upon as we continue our Personalized Learning journey is how we can implement more immediate strategy groups within our Reader's Workshop block. Due to the skill-based nature of our math workshop, it is easy to have a "bull pen" using our daily exit slips. In reading, we try not to have daily tasks, allowing the students more freedom to apply the different skills they need as they naturally come up in their self-selected text. In addition, increasing class sizes means that it takes about 2+ weeks to get through the entire class with individual or small group conferences. These don't help our issue of needing more immediate strategy groups.

Due to this, we decided to implement a form of formative assessment approximately once per week (sometimes every 1.5 weeks). One of the simple ways we do this is through a sticky note check in. Students have the opportunity to submit their best "character thinking sticky note" from that week (since we were in our character unit). They stick their sticky to a laminated class poster that is filled with numbers. Each of our students is assigned a number, so they each have their own "home." We ask them to put their name/number SOMEWHERE on their sticky note, because they will get mixed up later.
We collect the entire batch at the end of Reader's Workshop and can easily sort the sticky notes into "got it" or "don't got it." This allows us to quickly be able to organize a strategy group for the next day.

Another project that I have been tackling is becoming more familiar with the new Teacher's College Reading Progressions, as we utilize Teacher's College materials for both reading and writing workshop. While these are truly amazing tools, as with many other Teacher's College materials, they are incredibly "wordy." The entire Narrative Reading Progression is approximately 20 pages, which doesn't always lend itself to 4th graders that have the attention span of a fruit fly! :) Due to this, I modified them into bulleted tables. This format allows the entire Narrative Reading Progression to fit onto 4 pages (2 pages if you copy them back-to-back). I also made them for the Informational Text band, as well.
In addition to the entire document, I also saved each, individual band as smaller, PNG files. This allows us to insert these images anywhere we would like them (SMART files, Google Slides, Docs, or FORMS!) You can even print them out when working with strategy groups or individual students that you feel need to focus/reflect/set goals on one particular area.
We have also introduced individual bands of the progression as they pertained to our Character Unit of Study. This sparked the idea of self reflection for our students against the progression bands. We aren't using them as an exact rubric, more for reflection, discussion, strategy group work, and goal setting. We also decided to implement an alternate form of formative assessment. We used the applicable reading progression bands that we had been discussing the most that week, and created a weekly response/self-reflection tool using Google Forms. 
(Click to view actual form)
This allowed our students to create one "long and strong" about their best character thinking that week. It also asks them to reflect on their work against a specific band in the narrative reading progression. After reflection, they can go back and revise their response prior to submitting. The best part of Google Forms, is that all of your student responses (in our case...51 of them!) all feed into one, beautiful spreadsheet that you can now tweak, sort, and view in multiple ways!
There are many benefits to the spreadsheet! 1. Having ALL of your kid responses in one place! This is such a gift for a teacher to not have 51 sticky notes or papers to sort through (or lose!). 2. I set my responses to feed all into one place, making my entire unit of thinking all in one document! 3. I added a column called "score" to my spreadsheet, where I can easily give them a score against the band they were focusing on. This is super helpful, because you can then SORT your entire spreadsheet lowest to highest (or vs. versa depending on your needs). Now I can see all of my lowest responses in one chunk, making them my first strategy group that I will meet with the next day!

Now, I'll be honest, Google Forms can have their "downsides." The first being that not everyone is as familiar with them as other Google Tools. Due to this, I will try to put a blog post together about some of my favorite "tricks" having to do with Google Forms. I recently presented PD about this Google Form Reflection Tool to other teachers in our district, and I found that the majority of them needed more support in creating/manipulating Google Forms, than the actual progressions! :) So, I definitely recognize the "need" in that area! Another downside is from the student lens. If a student does NOT finish their Google Form Entry by the end of your reading block, there really is no way to save their progress (that I know of, at least? If anyone out there has a solution to this sticky problem, I would LOVE to connect! :) To alleviate this issue, we encourage our students to write their "long and strong" in their digital reading journals FIRST, then "copy/paste" it into their Google Form when they are ready. We also have a few students that use the new "voice type" option in Google Docs to "speak" their response, then "copy/paste" it into the Form when they are ready (really amazing accommodation for your students with special needs or ELL needs!). If you are an iPad classroom (we use Chromebooks), that speak option should be readily available directly within the Form. 

How do you use formative assessments in your reading workshop block? Have you been using the new Teacher's College progressions? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy Teaching!


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